The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has released new map-based flyers and an updated online web map to assist recreational anglers with Rockfish Conservation Area (RCA) waypoints and boundaries on the CDFW website.
These new flyers are available in anticipation for the recreational boat-based groundfish fishery seasons occurring as follows:
March 1 in the Southern Management Area (Point Conception to U.S./Mexico border);
April 1 in the Central Management Area (Point Arena to Point Conception);
April 1 in the San Francisco Management Area (Pigeon Point to Point Arena);
May 1 in the Mendocino Area (Point Arena to near Cape Mendocino);
May 1 in the Northern Management Area (Near Cape Mendocino to California/Oregon state line).
RCAs are used in each of the state’s five Groundfish Management Areas (and the Cowcod Conservation Areas) to minimize contact with deeper-dwelling species of rockfish needing protection from fishing. RCAs are defined by straight lines connecting the waypoints in the order listed in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 50, Part 660, Subpart C. Recreational take of those groundfish species subject to RCA restrictions is prohibited seaward of these lines regardless of depth. However, they may be possessed aboard a vessel in transit through these closed areas with no fishing gear deployed in the water. Anglers fishing for groundfish and non-groundfish species on the same trip are encouraged to review rules on take and possession inside and outside of RCAs.
The new flyers include an overview cover map, and a series of 38 regional maps detailing the entire California coastline, including offshore islands and banks. The maps feature the RCA waypoint coordinates and boundary lines as well as the Groundfish Management Area lines. Also included are California’s network of Marine Protected Areas, which may be closed to some or all recreational fishing. The RCA maps are overlaid on National Ocean Service nautical charts to help anglers compare them to their desired fishing location; however, they should not be used for navigation.
CDFW is also updating the online Ocean Sport Fishing Interactive Web Map with the new RCA lines. The web map, when used with a smart phone, will show your current position in relation to the RCA lines and marine protected area boundaries. Locations can be clicked or tapped to show the current fishing regulations. New features will also include the ability to live-track your position and different selections for the background to better understand the boundaries.
For 2021, the new map products are especially important as changes have been made to waypoints and RCA lines in three of the Groundfish Management Areas – Southern, San Francisco and Mendocino. The changes in each area offer anglers access to deeper depths, meaning more open fishing area when the groundfish season is open. In the Southern Management Area, the RCA for 2021 increases to 100 fathoms, allowing access to reefs and areas that have not been open to fishing in two decades. Subsequent openers for the San Francisco Management Area at 50 fathoms and the Mendocino Management Area at 30 fathoms are also new opportunities for anglers to venture into deeper depths to access shelf rockfish and deeper nearshore rockfish species. In the Northern Management Area the RCA depth remains at 30 fathoms, and in the Central Management Area at 50 fathoms.
In addition to the RCA changes and the new map products, anglers should also take note of the sub-daily bag limit of five vermilion rockfish, which is also new in 2021. Take and possession of bronzespotted rockfish, cowcod and yelloweye rockfish remain prohibited statewide.
Anglers should check CDFW’s website for the current regulations before fishing for groundfish. For more detailed information on the new 2021 recreational groundfish regulations and to stay informed of in-season changes, call the Recreational Groundfish Hotline at (831) 649-2801 or visit CDFW’s summary of recreational groundfish fishing regulations for 2021. For background information on groundfish science and management, visit CDFW’s Marine Region Groundfish web page.